“A fast is the self-denial of normal necessities in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer. Bringing attachments and cravings to the surface opens a place for prayer. This physical awareness of emptiness is the reminder to turn to Jesus who alone can satisfy.“Adele Calhoun
All spiritual disciplines are means not ends; they have no value in and of themselves, rather, we practice them in order to intentionally connect with God relationally in prayer.
Fasting is a “discipline of absence” (as opposed to a discipline of engagement, like reading and serving). In fasting, we to some degree and for some time remove the satisfaction that comes from fulfilling our normal and healthy desires. That felt absence, both the pain it creates and the attention it demands, is leveraged as a reminder to pray.
How Not To Fast
Do not fast in order to prove yourself or draw attention to yourself. Jesus explicitly confronts the common practice in the first century of using fasting as a way of branding yourself as “really spiritual” or “really serious about God.”
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”Matthew 6:16
Some people probably shouldn’t fast. When sick, traveling, pregnant or if you have a variety of preexisting conditions fasting from food isn’t a good idea. If you’re at all nervous, please ask your doctor what is wise. If you can’t fast from food, but would like to fast from something, give up something else that is a good gift from God and use its absence as a trigger for prayer.
Do not use fasting for the purpose of prayer as a cover for some other goal. If you want to try intermittent fasting or giving up desserts as a way of managing your body weight, go for it, but don’t overspiritualize it. Be honest about your goals. In this season, the goal is connecting with God in prayer on behalf of our nation and church.
How To Fast
For King Jesus 2020, we are fasting on the six Tuesdays leading up to the 2020 election in order to help us pray for the health of our nation and the holiness of our church. How exactly that will play out will be different from person to person and household to household.
Here is the key – go beyond your comfort zone. For some, that might mean skipping breakfast, for others, it might mean you don’t eat for 40 hours. You might choose to do something that progresses similar this:
- Week 1 – fast for breakfast
- Week 2 – fast for breakfast and lunch
- Week 3 – fast for all three meals
- Week 4 – fast until lunch the next day
- Week 5 – fast until dinner the next day (ie skip 5 meals)
- Week 6 – fast for two days
You might fast until dinner each Tuesday, pray as a family or a small group, and then eat pizza until it hurts. Here is my point: the goal is connecting with God in prayer, not “doing it right.” Feel free to be creative, but do your best to engage in the discipline and intercede in prayer on behalf of the health of our nation and the holiness of our church.
In the process, you will likely learn a lot about yourself. We Western Suburbanites tend to be comfort-addicted people.
“Fasting teaches us a lot about ourselves very quickly. It will certainly prove humiliating to us, as it reveals to us how much our peace depends upon the pleasures of eating. It may also bring to mind how we are using food pleasure to assuage the discomforts caused in our bodies by faithless and unwise living and attitudes—lack of self-worth, meaningless work, purposeless existence, or lack of rest or exercise.“Dallas Willard
If you’re looking for a way to begin in prayer, here is a blog post I wrote about during the 2016 election: 5 Ways To Pray For The Election.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”1 Timothy 2:1–2